American sailor and writer, Webb Chiles, said he enjoyed being in Durban and it was one of his favourite destinations. He said he would spend a month in the city before flying back to the US.  Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng
American sailor and writer, Webb Chiles, said he enjoyed being in Durban and it was one of his favourite destinations. He said he would spend a month in the city before flying back to the US. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

Old salt puts in at one of his favourite ports

By Mphathi Nxumalo Time of article published Aug 25, 2016

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Durban - Round and round he goes and where he stops…

Solo serial circumnavigator Webb Chiles arrived in Durban on Wednesday, glad to return to one of his favourite ports – and to be back on dry land after 55 days at sea, sailing from Darwin, Australia,

The American yachtsman, 74, who has circled the planet on five other occasions, said each time was different because he sailed different boats and followed different routes, which added to the challenge.

Chiles who lives near Chicago, said reading books helped him to get through long days alone on the boat.

He said he had read about 20 books on his way to Durban, in his ultra-light vessel, which is 7m long and weighs about 1 ton.

But if 55 days seem like a long time to spend in your own company, consider this: Chiles has, on a previous epic trip, spent 150 days alone.

Being an only child, he said, had taught him how to handle solitude.

For the Australia-to-Durban leg, Chiles said he had been on a steady diet of freeze dried meals and canned food.

The veteran yachtsman, who has been sailing for 40 years, said Durban was one of his favourite destinations.

The last time he was here was in 2008 and prior to that, in 1987.

What about the missus, you ask?

Chiles, who has been married six times, said his wife of 20 years Carol understands his passion for sailing and has even joined him on a long trip before.

In his decades-long sailing career there have been many adventures.

The most notable for him was in June 1982 in Saudi Arabia, where he was accused of being a spy and jailed for a few weeks.

He plans to spend a month in Durban and then fly back to his wife, who is an architect in the US. He said they would come back to South Africa together and “do the tourist thing”.

But before everything else, what he really wanted to do, was to have a fresh water shower, a meal and a beer, said Chiles who was awaiting customs and immigration clearance before he could come ashore.

His many years on the seas had brought him some insights, he said.

Chiles said as he came close to Durban, over the last 48km of the journey, the sea had been brimming with life and that he’d even seen a whale.

But he also made the more sobering observation that over the years he has generally seen a “lot less life here out in the ocean”, suggesting this could be attributed to human activities.

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